How I Do It–The Basics



“How do you do it?” When people see how many kids I have (5), and how close they are, (between 1 & 8 years old), a question I’m often asked is, “How do you do it?” “I don’t know, I bribe them,” I respond. But deep down, I am thankful they are well-behaved. I’m not bragging. No one’s perfect over here, and I apologize to my kids a lot. But if there’s something I’ve learned that can make your parenting experience easier- no delightful, here it is:

This is the very basic foundation of all my kids behavior. I teach them to obey when they’re young. I’m talking like one-year-old young. The one basic command that they learn before they can even put a spoon of cheerios in their mouth is, “Don’t touch.” That’s the main thing that 1-year-olds do wrong is they they touch stuff that they’re not supposed to.

And good news- teaching a one-year-old not to touch is easy! You can do it like 10 minutes. And if you consistently enforce your “don’t touch” rules at home, people will be flabbergasted how well behaved your kid is. However, if you wait till they’re 3, 4 or 5 years old to obey, it may take months to instill this principle in their hearts.

Whenever my toddlers go after the books on the shelf, or light sockets, or knives in the open dishwasher, I tell them “Don’t touch.” I have a rubber spatula that enforces my voice. If they touch after I’ve told them not to, I grab their hand and tell them, “Don’t touch this,” and spank their hand. They cry, I hug them and kiss them, tell them to say, “Yes, ma’am,” (no, they don’t actually say this yet, but it’s for future training) and let them give me a kiss back. Repeat this process as many times as it takes until they stop touching it. And when they finally stop touching it, do not forget to praise them! “Yay! You did a good job! Good boy!” And throw in some extra kisses.

Does a one-year-old understand? Absolutely! If you stick to it for 10 minutes or so, you will see your toddler pull his hand back when you say, “don’t touch.” Your kids are so intelligent! These are not dogs or horses learning tricks. These kids are human beings, made in the image of God, and they learn quickly! I have often times seen joy in their eyes after learning to obey. It’s almost as if they are proud of themselves for listening.

What do I do if they just keep touching no matter how many times I spank their hand? You are probably doing one of two things wrong: 1) You aren’t spanking their hand hard enough. Simply put, the pain you’re inflicting is not enough motivation to convince them to obey you. Increase the force, and they will cry. But don’t waste those tears. Pull them close, hug and kiss, them and reinforce your rule: “Don’t touch.” 2) You might have too much irritation in your heart. If you are angry and irritated as you are disciplining them, it’s better to just leave it alone. Take a break, and revisit it when you can control the emotions of your heart. Disciplining in anger is something we never want to do. Make sure your heart believes in them, is patient with them, and sticks around to follow up with the hugs and kisses. If you are barking, “Don’t touch!”, spanking their hand, then walking away, it will not work.

Isn’t it mean to spank them? No. What’s mean is never helping your kids develop self-control. Kids with no self-control are hard to be around. Also, kids are unreasonable. You may have noticed that your toddler gives no mind to your convincing argument why sticking a fork into the light socket is bad. But a quick sting will teach him the lesson in 5 seconds. Your kids will be safer and more likable as they grow in self-control.

This whole thing is so important, not just so you don’t have to follow your toddler around picking up the stuff they’ve pulled off the shelf, but because it teaches them respect. They will learn respect for authority and respect for things. A one-year-old who obeys will be a two-year-old who obeys, who will be a three-year-old who obeys, etc. It’s easy to teach this to a one-year old! Not so much for a five-year-old. So start as young as you can!

Ending note: If your kids are older, and you never started them out on these basics of obeying. Don’t worry. You may have to work harder to teach them to obey, and it will take longer, but it is possible. The principles are the same, if they don’t listen to your voice, there will be a consequence that “stings.” Be consistent, and don’t discipline in anger. And always go out of your way to praise them for doing something right.

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5 thoughts on “How I Do It–The Basics

  1. What about a two year old when she doesn’t get her way she throws herself on the floor or she has a fit and cries. Do I just let her throw herself on the floor until she gets over it? I try to explain to her after she’s done crying. I really don’t know what to do when she throws herself onto the floor…

    • Camille, great question! All my kids have done that, too. A hint of advice- it is not a phase. You have to take a firm stance against allowing any tantrum in your home if you want your kid to be polite when they don’t get what they want. It always gets worse as as they grow, unless you go out of your way to teach them not to throw fits. A motto I have with my kids goes like this, “I will not cry or throw a fit when I don’t get what I want.” What I do when my little ones throw themselves on the floor crying, is I will immediately go and pick them up, put them over my knee, and spank them on the bum. Their tantrum cry turns into “Ouch! That hurt!” cry, and I pull them close, hug them, kiss them, and tell them, “Don’t throw tantrums.” I say it a few times to get that phrase into their vocabulary. Then I have them say, “Sorry, Mommy” or “Yes, Ma’am,” which they may or may not say (their vocabulary is limited). But usually, they will at least go in for a kiss which means we are reconciled. You also want to teach them what to do instead of throwing tantrum. “We don’t cry, we say, ‘Mommy, can I have that please?'” If they’re demeanor is soft towards you, then they are learning their lesson. Awesome! But if you can see their demeanor is still defiant, you may need to repeat this whole process again. That’s okay. It’s easier to teach them at 2 years old than 3 years old. One last thing, you HAVE to do all this without being angry and irritated. Otherwise it will NOT work. You need to be patient and kind as you talk to them. And you also need to be consistent. If you only do this 1/2 the times they throw a tantrum, you will have a hard time. You need to do it EVERY time you see them throw a fit. Keep at it, and you’ll be blessed!

  2. Great basics, Kit! Couldn’t agree more! Camille … Tantrums are a control mechanism that children use to get their way. To ignore it is allowing them to unjustly irritate everyone around them … Everyone has the right to peace … When a child throws a tantrum calmly tell them they have a choice to either go to a spot and think about their actions so they can verbalize what is happening (that could be their bedroom, the car if out and about) or if they choose not to go themselves you will have to help them. Once they are in a spot to think about their actions and they calm down then talk to them about what happened. Re-iterate good choice/bad choice and have them tell you what they could have done different for it to be a good choice. This makes them own their emotions, actions and consequences.

  3. This is all so true! Thank you for being bold enough to write this in the PC culture we live in. I am currently pregnant with my 5th child (older kids are 7, 5, 3, 1.5) so your article really resonated with me. A balance of discipline with consistency and love are crucial, and I cannot emphasize the importance of staying calm! The state of my heart while disciplning my children really matters. It makes all the difference in teaching children self-control versus an attitude of wanting to just avoid punishment because of “Mommu’s wrath”. Thank you for the encouragement!

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